Bang! You're Dead

Review by Jeremiah

Today we're taking a look at the spaghetti western card game, Bang! Released in 2002, it's been augmented by several expansions, and now a third edition release has kept the franchise thriving. Some expansions can only be found in the "Bang the Bullet," which features the base set and all of the game's expansions in a nifty bullet shaped tin.

The game play is pretty simple: shoot everyone else (with "BANG!" cards), gain weapons to increase your range so you can shoot everyone at the table, and try to get a few defensive cards (Missed! cards), or hang onto some cards that will heal damage (we'll talk about those in a minute).

Where the game really thrives is in the intrigue and strategy department. Each player is randomly dealt a character and a role card. The character card gives the players a unique skill or ability that is theirs to use throughout the game.

The role card is kept secret (except for the Sheriff) and determines each player's course of action and goal for winning the game. The lawful (Sheriff and Deputies) win if they accomplish the task of killing all the Outlaws and the Renegade (the unlawful). The outlaws win by killing the sheriff, and the renegade wins by killing everyone. The trick to the Renegade, is that once the sheriff is killed, the game is over. So you have to kill off everyone else and essentially protect the sheriff until it's mano e mano. Since the role cards are kept secret (except the sheriff), there's lots of guessing, and blame-laying going on throughout the game.

Honestly, the Renegade, while most challenging, is probably my favorite role to play; you are the complete and total wild card at the table and if you play it right, you'll have the sheriff killing off deputies mid-game. Lot's of fun!

The game is designed for4-7 players so it's a great game for a larger group, and the play time is about 30 minutes (which in my book qualifies as a "quick play").

The clear and present danger of this game is that, especially with the full 7 players at the table, chances are someone will get killed—and therefore removed from the game—before they've even taken a single turn. This happens, and it's terrible (for the person who is out; everyone else seems to take a measure of twisted pleasure from the occasion). Then the 30 minutes no longer seems like a "quick play" but more like something I like to call "plotting vengeance time..."

Some things to consider when playing this game: Even when playing with my most "pious" of friends, the temptation to play a "BANG!" card, and blurt out some reference to a euphemism in western culture concerning what said player "did" to the other player by playing the "BANG!" card, is virtually irresistible. If you're going to play with teenagers, I suggest being in a mindset of complete self control. Don't even crack that door open with them, cause it will be game over well before the game is, well, over.

I mentioned cards that heal damage early; there are 2 types of cards that heal damage to characters, and one is the "Beer" card. Yep, have a nice cold one and you'll heal one hit point to your character. The other is the saloon—belly up to the saloon and the whole table gets healed one hit point. Some people change this to root beer to avoid promoting drinking. Your call.

The artwork on the cards is very cartoonish; there's nothing gory or distasteful about letting fly with your favorite six-shooter. And in the style of the spaghetti western, they've even gone so far as to put the card text into Italian underneath the English.

All in all, the game can be fun if the players really get into their roles and you're fortunate enough to survive the first time around the table.

As always thanks for reading, and if there are any games you'd like us to review, feel free to leave your requests in the comments!